Saturday, April 25, 2015

4, 5, 6, 7 and 8

Major League Soccer currently has teams at 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 games played.

5 - NYR, TFC,
4 - MTL

Ever since I started following the league closely back in 2010 I've noticed that getting teams on the same round has always been a challenge for MLS. Five years ago, I thought the driver was that many of the teams didn't have a home stadium and had to plan around whatever event was at their home. I have a tough time seeing that now. Outside of NYCFC and New England all the teams above are playing in a stadium of which they are primary tenants.

This year the schedule disruption, I believe, comes from the new TV deal and MLS trying to get marquee matchups (or matchups the league thinks works from a marketing perspective) in the Sunday afternoon slots on ESPN 2 and Fox Sports and the Friday night games on UniMás. There are a lot. Basically it works out to about a third of the season has to be scheduled between the networks all season long (97 of 340 games).
So, what is the solution for MLS? I've been tossing that question around in my head for a couple weeks. It's frustrating that the league can't get teams close to the same round. This year they are so far apart that it almost appears there are a few leagues running simultaneously.

The quest to become relevant on television has completely overtaken the (already thin) competitive side of what is the MLS regular season. Is it the right thing for the league to do? Sacrifice the integrity of the season in order to try and solve the TV riddle?

It's a tricky challenge for the league and one they haven't quite figured out. For me, I would prefer that MLS start treating their competition like it matters. Like a priceless work of art. If they don't, nobody will, including the networks they currently play on.

On a side note: It's a shame that Columbus isn't on much. They are trying to play an attractive style and have a coach with a bright, potentially national, future. I get that attendances are low (teams with traditionally low attendances like Chicago, Dallas, Houston, DC, New England getting few games) but if MLS is going for viewers (that's the millions of SOCCER viewers - not "I watch all sports guy"), they are the team to put front and center.

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